World Beyond Pandemic – The Geopolitics


Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

Amid opacity hovering over post-pandemic world, one thing is certain that the prevailing global contagion is likely to alter the course of the world. The chronological account of the world fairly reveals that major natural catastrophes have toppled empires and annihilated dynasties; this ongoing calamity is moving on the same trajectory with similar intensity and enormity. Hence, it is, like other preceding calamities, going to breed comparable outcomes.

The most probable outcome may be the de-globalization and emergence of centrifugal forces within global capitalism. In fact, the process of disintegration of globalized world has, of course, been underway for some time, as epitomized by Donald Trump’s rejection of the trans-pacific Partnership trade pact and his subsequent launch of trade war against both allies and adversaries; Brexit is another manifestation of this trend. The Covid-19 pandemic will lend added momentum to this process, by encouraging businesses in Europe and the U.S. to move their critical supply line away from Asia and towards local supplies.

Furthering this strategy, Trump has already sought to decouple the U.S. economy from China by imposing stiff tariffs on Chinese goods and by egging on American companies to dismantle the supply lines they had established and move them home, or to more reliable countries elsewhere.

On the other hand, China is likely to shrink its dependence on the American market and place greater emphasis on clients in Africa and in South, Central and Southeast Asia. The belt and road initiative, Bejing’s primary vehicle of trade, is now experiencing a slowdown as a result of the pandemic, but will no doubt be accorded fresh impetus once Chinese achieve rehabilitation. As part of this endeavor, China is likely to demand greater use of Yuan in trade and development agreements, progressively edging out the dollar and euro.

Europe too is inclined to drift way from Washington because of Trump’s hostility towards NATO and punitive tariffs on European goods. European leaders, once the current crisis recedes, are likely to increase their distance from Washington and seek greater autonomy in both economic and political affairs.

All this suggests that we are going to witness more segmented  world in the days to come, with three major blocs or trading zones operating  more or less according to their own rules and employing the same currency — the dollar in the Western Hemisphere, the euro in Europe and Africa, the yuan in Asia.

Moreover, pandemic would also serve as a test case for the performance of various regimes and governments. Those who manage the crisis effectively may enjoy an upsurge in public support; those that do poor will lose support and may be ousted. Hence, every government will be judged on its performance in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

Inter alia, in aftermath of this dismal outbreak, many industries are going to suffer heavy losses. The industry which is more vulnerable and is likely to suffer incomparable loss is oil industry. Oil is the most essential and valuable commodity in international trade and its sale on international markets is critical to the economies of such oil-exporting states as Angola, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. When oil prices are high, the leaders of these countries invest huge sums on major infrastructure projects and bolster social services, thereby reaping public support; when prices are low, they are supposed to minimize government expenditures, causing agony and pain for the masses and inviting revolt. With the Covid-19 pandemic collapsing economic activity around the world, we can expect a long period of low prices — with severe and possibly fatal consequences for the current leadership of major producers.

Among other global shifts, we can also expect many other geopolitical consequences of Covid-19 pandemic. One of such consequences may be the end of U.S. strategy termed as “forward deployment” and “coalition warfare,” that holds that American forces should fight the nation’s enemies on their borders. This entails permanent deployment of massive U.S. military contingents in such locations as Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and the greater Persian Gulf — a stance that naturally requires the acquiescence and support of the countries involved. This strategy also requires that American troops be reinforced with those from coalition partners, whether from the NATO countries or under bilateral arrangements, like those with Japan and South Korea. But now, with Covid-19, all of this is in jeopardy.

In addition, production bottlenecks the ones in electronic manufacturing have also created humongous hurdles in fight against the new coronavirus. With this new virus spreads, some governments are giving in to their worst instincts. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak began, Chinese manufacturers made half of the world’s medical masks. These manufacturers ramped up production as a result of crisis, but the Chinese government effectively bought up the country’s entire supply of masks, while also importing large quantities of masks and respirators from abroad. China certainly needed them, but the result of its buying spree was a supply crunch that hobbled other countries’ response to the disease.

Finally, whereas Trump administration has exploited the pandemic to pull back on integration, China is using this crisis to showcase its willingness to lead. What happened with Italy in early march is worth mentioning here; when it called on other EU countries to provide emergency medical equipment as critical shortages forced its doctors to make heartbreaking decisions about which patients to try to save and which to let die. None of them responded. But China did, offering to sell ventilators, masks, protective suits, and swabs. China experts like Rush Doshi and Julian Gewirtz have argued, Beijing seeks to portray itself as the leader of the global fight against the new coronavirus in order to promote goodwill and expand its tentacles across the globe.  

To cap it all, post-pandemic world is likely to accommodate many geopolitical and geo-economic changes. It may result in the emergence of new world order for which we all must be ready. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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